It wasn't really the reaction I had expected. Here's why.
A few days ago, I changed my relationship status on Facebook.
I've been exclusively dating my boyfriend for nine months, but being Facebook-official wasn't a thing that mattered to me because I'm not a 16-year-old girl nor am I desperate enough that in order for my relationships to be real I have to validate them to a sea of virtual friends and strangers. I know my value.
The only reason I changed my status at all was because of the unwanted attention I sometimes receive online.
I write about sex, and I talk about sex on my bi-weekly Facebook Live show. Because I am open and kind and a woman with breasts (prodigious breasts, I might add) a lot of men who don't even know me think that it's okay to harass me.
That harassment takes many forms. It could be a death threat on Twitter or an unsolicited penis pic (dude, you should really get that mole looked at, btw), or something as innocuous as a man thinking that my mere existence means that he alone should be getting all of my time and all of my attention.
Changing my Facebook status to "in a relationship" wasn't to preen or share with the world how happy I am (though I am), it was a safeguard against unwanted attention from men.
Is it fair or reasonable that I feel better hiding behind my boyfriend online? Nope. But the sad truth of the matter is that being in a relationship and advertising that makes me less likely to have guys all over my junk all day.
I didn't expect that changing my relationship was going to have another effect:
It seemed like everyone I knew I was liking or loving the post, commenting on how happy they were for me, demanding to see pictures.
It was all really nice, I mean, who doesn't like it when their friends are happy for them?
But it also drove me totally nuts.
Why should the news that there is a man whose penis I regularly fondle merit such a response?
I love my boyfriend, he's awesome, but it's ridiculous that his mere existence in my life earned more of outpouring than any of my other posts, you know, like announcing that a new play I've written is being produced, or sharing the gut-wrenching news of my cat Rumi's death. Those were times I needed my friends, but clicking a button to share that I'm getting banged on the regs? Why does THAT matter more?
I haven't had a boyfriend, a real one like this, in years. But being single never made me less of person. That never made me a pathetic figure who needed to be worried about a fretted over. Did I have days where I felt lonely? Sure. But guess what: I STILL DO. Having easy access to a penis and a fine pair of blue eyes to gaze into didn't eradicate my existential dread, y'all.
It wasn't anyone's intention commenting to make me feel that by having a boyfriend I'd finally done something "acceptable" with my life.
It was just people expressing their happiness for me. I know, I get that.
But why does having a partner have to be a thing worthy of such outpourings?
If you want to deny that sexism is real, then look at how we treat single women. Before I had a boyfriend, I got a Master's degree. I moved to New York City on my own with no money. I survived suicidal ideation and anxiety. I pursued my dreams. But having a boyfriend? Something that just sort of happened? That's what earned the biggest response from my peers, and if that's not sexism, I don't know what is.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think my friends are sexist. But I do think we live in a world where a woman is considered to have more value if she has a partner, whether that's something we ever say out loud or not.
I love my boyfriend and I'm proud to know him, but he doesn't make me who I am, I'm not "finally whole" with him. He's just the cherry on the sundae that is my general awesomeness.